ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – As the decades-long conflict in Gaza intensified over the weekend, residents in the Capital District called out the humanitarian crisis. While some are standing with Israel, others are standing with Palestine – with many clarifying it’s not a conflict between the Jews and the Muslims, it is a conflict between the Jewish state and Hamas.

Eyad Alkurabi has been outspoken in the fight for Palestinian rights and founded the Queer Palestinian Empowerment Network (QPEN) to combat dehumanization.

“They took everything from us. They took the food. They took the land. They took the right to speak. They killed all of our thought leaders,” said Alkurabi.

He called the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine gut-wrenching and ostracizing and likens it to the genocide of Indigenous people in the Americas. 

“I’m out here protesting for Palestinian rights nonviolently ok, but I will say we have the right to self-determination. Indigenous people have the right to self-defense and self-determination. Black Americans have the right to self-defense and self-determination,” said Alkurabi. “Any oppressed people have the right to do that, as in accordance with international law.” 

David Banks is the director of Globalization Studies at UAlbany and said Palestinians are living in a 21 square-mile open-air prison. He said the 2 million people who were forced onto the Gaza Strip have their lives controlled, half of whom are children. 

“What goes on within Gaza is deeply disturbing. They don’t control their own electricity. They’ve been blockaded since 2007 so they can’t get in their own supplies,” said Banks. “When we talk about Gaza and Palestine the question we have to ask ourselves is what is the moral calculus of escaping hell?”

He said students understand the gravity of the issue – about the Palestinians who have been separated from their land, heritage and culture.

“Really the thing that I try to get across is that there are entire histories that as Americans we hardly even know, and that we have to understand fully and completely before we make any kind of judgment,” said Banks.

He said the U.S. government has a unique relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He said the result has been unquestioning loyalty to that administration and fears the declaration of war will mean one thing.

“This is going to mean a lot of bloodshed. What’s going to happen in the next couple of days, weeks, is going to be really disturbing because the Israeli government more than anything is humiliated right now,” said Banks.

He said it’s important to learn from American history and the connections to this conflict.

“If we want to talk about what’s been learned, the Israeli government learned from the American government about how to displace and lock up a population,” said Banks. “The truth and reconciliation process that has to come in order to heal, that is tremendous and rare. There’s so few instances in this world where you see that happen.”